The Value of Software - Another Response

The following was is an email in which R.V. takes up some points raised by Graham Seaman. Graham's comments are in italics - IP.

On Monday, December 26, 2005 1:11 AM, Graham wrote:

Where was his text? I looked on the 'reseau' but find no new additions since September; is there another location to follow this discussion?

His text was written within IP, after their last conference in November, as an attempt to create a thread of discussion ("internal") . I was invited to their conference and saw for the first time in that milieu a real interest to begin to develop on this technological topics. Till now AFAIK he has got no answer, except your text and my comments on services. This is not an usual way of discussing but we shall see. I can play the go-between for the moment.

[Quoting Raoul] "But, at a basic level, I have a problem with your idea that "the service industries ... do not themselves create value".

I am also very unsure about this and it is not a core part of my argument about software, which is generally not provided as part of a service, but through the sale of licences. As I was writing it I thought something very similar to what you wrote below (of course without the figures to back it up that you have provided!)...

It's not an answer to your question, but I think you have to be a little careful with the definition of 'services' in these kind of statistics, which is very broad and doesn't only cover 'reproduction of the work force'.

I agree. That's why, a few lines after, I said "a big share of services." Producing bread would create value, but health care not? Well, in practice, if you look at how they are funded, health care does come from revenue (eg. taxes or personal savings), whereas bread production is part of the circuit of productive capital.

I don't understand that. Bread production funding comes also from personal income, mostly wages (variable capital). Health care is also part of the circuit of productive capital, if we understand "productive" in the sense that the result of production may be embedded in new capital (variable or constant). Bread, once eaten, has the same kind of result as health care on the working force reproduction. from a purely formal,accounting point of view, health care is a deduction, not the source of a surplus.

What about the very profitable private clinics and hospitals? The capital invested in them increases as a result of the surplus vale (the difference between the value of the service offered and the cost of the labour force of nurses, doctors, kitchen workers, etc.).

And it's easy to see that bread production can create surplus value, > while this is harder to see with health care: people aren't commodities, only their labour power is. So for health care to produce surplus value, the labour power of the carer would have to produce more labour power in the person being cared for than used in the caring.

I don't follow you. It seems a strange way to measure surplus value. You don't use it to measure the surplus value created by bread producing workers. You don't need to evaluate the "labour power in the person being" fed with bread and compare it with that used in producing bread.

How is that possible? Unless you base the argument on levels of skill, I > can't see it at all. If it were true, capitalism would have a big incentive to keep everyone as well as possible, which clearly isn't true.

But that is also true for bread production. Food production (Nestle, for eg.) or medicine production (Pfizer, for eg.)are very profitable capitalist sectors, nevertheless, today, in the planet, a child dies from malnutrition every four seconds.

[Quoting Raoul]"In Marx's times services were almost insignificant in the reproduction of the work force. He often (not always) assimilated services to faux frais. I don't think this is correct today, at least for a big share of services."

I think this is absolutely incorrect, though I don't have any figures to back this up. In his time any non-working class family, even poor ones, would have at least one domestic servant. I'm sure the proportion of people 'in service' would not have been that different from now.

It is true that there were a lot of domestic servants. It would be interesting to know their share in total employment. But, as you say, that concerned "non-working class families".

Anyway, this is not a core part of your argument about software.


December 27, 2005

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